YSP fully incorporates each participant in every phase of production: rehearsing, directing, memorizing, providing technical support such as make-up and stage management. YSP does not involve auditions. Performances are always admission-free, offering an affordable cultural and creative experience to participants and audience members. YSP furthers the emotional development of young people and provides them a community in which service and volunteerism is essential to the organization’s viability. The program is designed to show its young participants (and their families and the community) that the works of William Shakespeare, G.B. Shaw, and Charles Dickens are not dull or above them, but delightful, accessible, and fun.“This is about the kids, the way they can connect with what is most beautiful in our culture and language, and what is in themselves.”
–Richard DiPrima, Founder
Methods & Materials
Since the YSP mission is to help “young people find a voice through understanding and performing classical theater,” the program’s core is built upon the complete understanding of the material that young actors memorize and perform. This understanding occurs through YSP’s unique instructional materials and methods:
- Audio Materials
- Commenting (& Multiple Casts)
- Intern and Apprentice Directors
To make the full-length and unaltered plays of Shakespeare and G.B. Shaw comprehensible and appealing to children of every age, YSP relies on original audio materials created by founder and director, Richard DiPrima.
For the 16 Shakespeare plays and for the Shakespeare workshops, these materials both explain every line of these challenging texts and also give some basic direction to the actors. This system gives equal access to readers and non-readers alike (and thereby also allows YSP to serve pre-readers and those with different learning styles in memorizing their lines).
Because YSP knows its actors will derive full educational benefits and perform well only if they thoroughly understand and appreciate Shakespeare’s language, YSP provides explanation and lines-only audio for each role in every production. For Shaw plays, YSP provides lines-only CDs as well as explanatory lectures of the plays developed especially for the YSP actors.
These audio materials form the program’s core. At the beginning of a production, actors receive a set of CDs or tapes for their specific roles. Explanations might range from 17 hours for the title-role of Hamlet to 3 hours for Horatio to 15 minutes for a 2-line captain’s part. With these materials and the assistance of staff and fellow actors, a 7-year-old or a teenager, regardless of experience level or reading ability, can assume a complex role with complete understanding, learning the meaning of unusual words, puns & jokes, the character’s context, motivations and relationships, historical references, and above all, the significance of every spoken line while memorizing.
Actors listen to these materials at home multiple times during the rehearsal period for a production, and they become experts on their characters.
Commenting (& Multiple Casts)
YSP’s methods promote involvement by the young people in every aspect of each production. In addition to acting, the young participants provide input into casting, provide backstage technical support, assist colleagues with memorizing, and, most important, help direct productions by giving one another constructive comments.
This process of constructive feedback is the YSP method of commenting that occurs at every rehearsal. While actors rehearse a scene, their colleagues who are not in the scene (and who may be in another cast) help “direct” by watching and listening with extraordinary care and then offering constructive comments to the players in the scene. This method creates an environment in which the actors teach and learn from each other.
Initially, commenting is modeled by the apprentice or intern directors who respond to a scene by letting the players know first what they did well and then what could be improved and how. Thereafter, all actors are welcome and encouraged to comment at the end of a scene.
Because actors have listened to their explanation audio materials, they already have an understanding of their characters; their comments to counterparts (actors with the same part in another cast) are usually focused and helpful. In addition, because the actors are dedicated to the cooperative task of telling this complex story, they want to help each other to do his or her best. This dedication and cooperation creates a supportive, non-competitive environment that fosters serious and respectful feedback regardless of age or experience.
Intern and Apprentice Directors
For more than two decades, young intern and apprentice directors have helped create the YSP productions.These young directors are always veterans of the YSP programs. They help lead every phase of the productions such as overseeing rehearsals, guiding actors through memorizing goals, scheduling and overseeing run-throughs and special rehearsals, assigning tech roles, and helping dress rehearsals and performances to run smoothly.